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As I savor the rich chocolate and caramel found in my Magnum ice cream bar, I am suddenly brought back to the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, just one of the few places I remember eating the same delectable treat. I hear the festive Christmas music playing as rosy-cheeked children and parents dance merrily around each other in their thick knitted sweaters. I then take one final bite, and I am reminded of the most engraved memory of them all – the feeling of my grandparents’ hands each wrapped in my own.
Not many individuals can say that they have traveled to over twelve different countries in the course of a lifetime, but even fewer can say they accomplished that goal within the first sixteen years of life. Thankfully, I was blessed with grandparents who believed exposing my family and me to the cultures of the world was essential to our learning and understanding of history. To this day, I am impacted by their fascination with traveling, and my enthrallment will resonate with me for the remainder of my lifetime. My grandparents truly embodied perseverance and took the initiative to make my cousins and me well-learned individuals by sharing the experiences the world has to offer us. From sitting on Shakespeare’s feather stuffed mattress in Stratford-upon-Avon, to standing on top of the Eiffel Tower and seeing the entire city of Paris gleam at night, I would not trade these memories for the world.
However, I truly believe that my grandparents wanted us to take away much more than a few facts and an extra five pounds of belly flab; they wanted to expand our horizons by widening our perspective on life and witnessing the different ways of living. Some families encourage their children to compete in sports, some send their children off to prestigious universities to further their knowledge, but what my grandparents gave to me, the gift of travel, has benefited me beyond what any of the former could. My grandparents played an enormous role in shaping my identity because by allowing me to be well-traveled, it birthed a new spirit within me. How hard is it to acknowledge the beauty and intricate nature of the world’s many cultures? My family saw everyday as a learning opportunity, a chance to grasp a new food for thought and ponder on it. If my grandparents did not instill these important values and lessons into me the way they did, I would be half the person I am today. As America so rapidly becomes more and more diverse, unfortunately, more and more walls are built between us as well; the hate, bigotry, and misogyny must be eliminated, and because of the open mind my grandparents engendered within me, this task will become that much simpler. I will endlessly give gratitude to my grandparents for presenting me with a gift that will never need a battery change, a trip to the repair shop, or the fret of an expired warranty.
What my grandparents gave me was much more than many memories and a few tokens; they bestowed new knowledge, new horizons, and a new identity that has the capability of changing this world for the better. I will make it my utmost priority to provide acceptance, impartiality, and receptivity to my generation and those after us to certify that humanity’s faith will be restored. Constantly, I am seeking new ways to spread my beliefs to others, and my grandparents have always taught me that adventure awaits anywhere…which then begs the question, where to next?
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